WAR ZONE

…we live in a war zone. There will be casualties

I have written in past days about my first experiences in Bosnia Herzegovina not very long after the cessation of open war. I use the term open war because the hatred and the racial and societal issues still divide the country and corruption stops any real forward progress in defeating the enemy.

It is difficult to describe a war zone. The buildings that once were homes, businesses, churches are just bombed out shells, with no life save the foraging insects and vermin that root among the remains looking for what else they can devour.

A hand painted sign reading welcome to Sarajevo covered in shrapnel caused pock-marks
Iconic Sarajevo sign 1995

Where people still reside, apartment buildings have shell holes that allow in the winter wind and the outside is pock-marked, the results of shrapnel tearing apart at the structure trying to weaken it.

There is a stark analogy between the physical war zone I witnessed in Sarajevo and remote areas of the countryside and the spiritual battles we face today. In Bosnia, no place was left untouched. Specific places had horrific stories of hate-driven carnage and we see the same in the battles Satan wages upon our world. I have felt the darkness of Satan’s demonic power more in Bosnia than anywhere else I have traveled but, it is only because there the mask of civilization was ripped away, and Satan’s plans were open for anyone to see. In the rest of our world, often, we keep the mask of civility and Satan’s attacks are, perhaps, not unseen, but unnoticed  by an uncaring society too wrapped in their own pain and secular drives to respond.

In the Bible we read, Satan is a roaring lion, prowling around seeing whom he may devour, just like the vermin crawling among the carnage of Bosnia’s war. Paul tells us our war is not against flesh and blood but “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph. 6:12)

A fierce looking lion crouched as if to pounce surrounded by a black background with the words Our Adversary the Devil

God has permitted Satan to have dominion over the world until the time He finishes it and brings Satan to destruction and all who believe in Christ are His forever in peace. God waits, not because He is cruel but because He is patient and loving. Peter explains it, writing that God is “not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”(2 Peter 3:9)

Until then, as one writer put it, “Satan’s attack means that we all are vulnerable to sickness, betrayal, financial meltdown, relational loss, emotional despair and other hardships… bad things happen to good people… we live in a war zone. There will be casualties.” (Rooted, Mariners Church 2011 p 85)

In our spiritual battles, there will be homes empty, just shells remaining where once there were families. There will be businesses and churches gone, only the few, scattered remains from a bombing by sin and failure. Where people still reside, there will be shell holes letting in the cold winter wind, chilling the soul and hardening the heart; the explosive remains of  damaged relationships, lost trust and horrific sin. The lives of those struggling to survive are pock-marked by the shrapnel of sin which has left its mark upon them.

There is hope.

The damage of war can be overcome and what was once uninhabitable shells of homes and broken down lives can come to life again like spring after a hard winter. The refreshing breeze of peace and love that comes only from Jesus Christ through His victory over death and sin.  When it coms to spiritual battles, as the ‘Rooted’ book spells out, “And (the Lord) wins. Every. Single. Time.” (p 85)

Someone once wrote how, in the darkest of places, a single candle burns brightest. I saw such a candle in Bosnia. It came in the form of a simple, unpretentious man who loved His Lord and loved every single person God sent his way in a very dark place. The flame of his candle lit many small candles which will burn for generations when the Spirit moves to set those candles within His lampstand.

A completely dark black frame with one bright flame from a candle visible in the darkness

John writes, “We know that we are children of God and that the world is under the control of the evil one.” That is disconcerting to say the least. But in context, we find hope. The verse just before this one reads, “We know that no one who is born of God sins; but He who was born of God (that’s Jesus)keeps him (that’s you if you truly believe)and the evil one (that’s Satan) does not touch him. Jesus told us we would have trouble in this world, but the Good News is that Jesus has overcome the world! He said so! Jesus doesn’t lie. Satan’s attacks will be all around us, but as believers, saved by grace through faith, even if we die because of a sinful world’s sickness, we are safe, secure, in heaven forever with Him.   

We live in a war zone. Live under the banner of the victor. Take heed to what He teaches about daily survival and keep a long-view, looking toward the completion of all things under Christ.

A Watering Trough or Mountain Spring?

Reflections on John Piper’s devotion,

Serve God with Your Thirst

Please take a few minutes to read John Pipers, Serve God with Your Thirst, before enjoying this reflection.

At a recent gathering of Christian men; a dear brother read to us John Piper’s Serve God with Your Thirst. I was hit square on by the passage  and want to share some of my own reflections from that first view  of this work. In his devotional titled, Solid Joys, Piper has penned this short piece and he makes the analogy between a watering trough and a mountain spring. Having been the keeper of horses, (I’m not certain anyone truly owns a horse, but they allow themselves to be kept, fed, cared for and, upon occasion, will acquiesce to a rider), I found the analogy striking. Piper writes, “God is a mountain spring, not a watering trough. A mountain spring is self-replenishing. It constantly overflows and supplies others. But a watering trough needs to be filled with a pump or bucket.”

Something Piper did not report was that a watering trough is a breeding ground for all types of yuck. Without a good power washing or scrubbing, before long there are more things living in the trough than are supplied by it. Mosquitos, fly larvae, and some bacteria without nice names will soon make the trough not just unusable, but unsafe. A mountain spring, however, is forever new, refreshed, clean, crisp and clear. Piper’s analogy, of course, is succinct. Our indwelling in Christ is not of our work, but His.

He goes on to write,” If you want to glorify the worth of a watering trough, you work hard to keep it full and useful. But if you want to glorify the worth of a spring, you do it by getting down on your hands and knees and drinking to your heart’s satisfaction, until you have the refreshment and strength to go back down in the valley and tell the people what you’ve found.”

Recently, my wife and I sat on the patio of a restaurant along the bank of a river. As we watched, the river run past. The cool breeze of the afternoon was a welcome relief from the hot summer sun over us, shaded just enough by the grape arbor and magnificent oak that grew along the water’s edge. I remarked how the water pushing past us just then, rushing toward the Ohio River then working its way south to the Gulf of Mexico, would not come past us again. It was gone. But, even before it was out of reach, new water arrived to replace it. And so, it is with God’s grace. A mountain spring whose waters are fresh every second invite you to drink deeply, even wade in and allow the water to cover you. That the grace of God could be felt like that cool, mountain spring, pouring over us, new every minute.

https://desiringgod.org/articles/serve-god-with-your-thirst
trough photos courtesy of West Fork Ranch – Western Country Realty and Current Events in Historical Perspective The Ohio State – Dry Days Downunder
Smokey Mountain Spring Photograph courtesy Don F. Bradford

 

A “Child-like” Faith

Dr. Ross L. Riggs

Few times in my adult life have I been truly afraid. In most every circumstance, I was afraid for someone that I loved. I’m not certain of any specific time when I was afraid of what would happen to me, particularly in a physical way. I might suggest, too, I’m not particularly courageous. It is not because I am a strong man who is never afraid of anything. It is more because, unlike many of my brothers in the emergency services and very much unlike those serving in the front lines of our military in combat zones; I have seldom been placed in a predicament that might cost me my life. Don’t get me wrong, in all my years in police work, I had threats, and guns or knives used against me and more than a few fights; some which, for a time, we weren’t sure who was winning. There was one time, in such a fight, that I awoke from unconsciousness, face down on a brick road and my first thought was, ‘If I don’t get up I am going to die’ Still, I don’t remember being scared, just aware of my circumstances. Once or twice, as a volunteer firefighter, on the end of a hose crawling through black smoke, unable to see, all I could do was feel my way and feel the intense heat around me… that was orifice puckering, without a doubt. Usually, though, it was after the incident, when there was time to contemplate what might have happened, then there was time to be afraid.

John Wayne is quoted as saying, “Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.” Probably, if I had to stand in the open door of a C130 cargo plane, attached to a line to parachute out the door, I would probably be more afraid of that than anything else I can imagine (unless it involves a pit full of snakes in the dark…)  My son, Daniel, was in the U.S. Army Airborne and he loved the thrill of jumping. I would probably squeal like a little girl all the way out the door! daniel 325 1st brigade red falcons hhcAgain, John Wayne, in the movie, The Green Beret, spoke to a South Vietnamese colonel about parachuting. He said, “The first one is easy. It’s the second one that is hard to get them to make.”

Fear and courage are perhaps two sides of the same coin. In the Bible, there are several references to mighty men of valor. In the Chronicles and the books of First and Second Kings, we read of David’s army and men within those ranks that were such men. There were many who were very highly praised for their valor; but, only a select few attained to the highest rankings of the Mighty Men. At one point, outside the enemy’s camp, David spoke of desiring water from the well that was within the enemy’s headquarters. Unbeknownst to David, three of the ‘Mighty Men’ secreted their way into the enemy camp and obtained the water for their King. Upon their return, David learned of their honoring his request. He refused to drink the water, and said it was now of such value because of the risk the men took, all he could do was to offer it up to God as a sacrifice. The Mighty Men of Valor were more devoted to honoring their King than they were concerned about their own safety. They also, had a pretty strong belief in their ability to pull off the daring deed successfully. Did they experience fear? If they did not feel fear, could they truly have been courageous?

Can one exhibit courage unless it stands over the fear which seeks to overwhelm the man of valor? Courage from faith comes when one has gone through life-threatening scenarios because of one’s profession; even though, at the time, the adrenalin and training was enough to keep a person reacting.  Then, afterwards, to realize how fearful a thing it was through which they have come; to don the uniform again and go back at it, night after night; is what The Duke meant by, ‘saddling up anyway.’ A similar courage is found in the spouse of that person who, night after night, pats their loved one’s chest to make sure the one they love is wearing a vest; and then watches them walk out that door. Saddling up, also, is the soldier’s wife, a thousand miles away, as she says a prayer with her children for their daddy; kisses their foreheads and assures them, “Daddy is just fine, now go to sleep. He’ll be home as soon as he can.” She goes to her room then, and prays herself to sleep.

Perhaps some of the bravest people I have met are children. I have witnessed more courage by children in a hospital setting than anywhere else I have been. I volunteered with my dog, Gunner, at Akron Children’s Hospital. In the burn ward, on the cancer floor, awaiting surgery or overcoming an amputated limb, these are some of the most resilient and most tenacious; some of the strongest yet most fragile people I have ever met. The common ingredient among them… faith. Gunner at ACH.JPG

Many I met had a faith in God and in Jesus Christ. Many more weren’t sure about any theology, they just knew that Jesus loved them. Even though they did not understand why Jesus or God would allow them to be like they were, they just knew that Jesus loved them and was going to make sure they were Okay, even if that meant dying and going to heaven. That was the other thing they were sure of too, their place in heaven. That doesn’t mean there were not questions and doubts; fear and tears. At the end of the day, though, the children taught the adults around them great lessons in faith. Just knowing that Jesus would do what He said He would do; was enough for them! That is what Jesus was talking about when He said we must come to Him in childlike faith.

Childlike faith does not mean we blindly accept whatever comes our way with no depth of understanding. The Old Testament tells of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego; three Jewish young men, taken captive and living as officials to the king in the palace, with faith as strong as a child. Refusing to bow in homage to the king in worship of his likeness, they were sentenced to be thrown alive into a super-heated furnace. Knowing the furnace would be certain death, they boldly told the king how certain they were, even if their God did not save them from the fire, He was still God; and everything would be Okay. They understood death was imminent, still they knew following what they believed to be God’s will for them was more important than what they might endure physically.

I come up against a misapplication of this theology at times when I speak to missionaries and others in similar service about contingency planning. Too often, there is an almost frivolous God will take care of it attitude and I make the case in my thesis: In Times of Risk, Developing Contingency Plans for Missionary Sending Churches and Agencies, which is available through Summit University, Richard J. Murphy Library, Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania. The Bible is replete with great examples of God-ordained contingency planning. Nehemiah is probably one of the clearest examples. One man works while another holds a spear and each works nearest their home to protect it also.

One particularly obstinate opponent to contingency planning, a former head of an international missionary sending agency, completely disagreed with my statement on martyrs for the faith. Often, we eulogize men and women who died while serving in a ministry capacity as martyrs when, in fact, they may have also have lived, Lord-willing by simple choices and planning. Sometimes, they could have stayed alive by just learning when to remain quiet. God knows, and I don’t judge; but, I also do not step in front of an on-coming training saying that God will protect me and if I die it must be His will! The Bible does teach, I believe, that God knows, from before we are born, the day that we will die. Because He knows we will die that day, stepping in front of that train, doesn’t necessarily mean it was His will for us to have done it! As a police officer, I always wore a bullet-proof vest and when driving, my seatbelt. Does that mean I did not have enough faith in God to protect me? No! It means I used the tools provided to me and the common-sense God endowed with me to be cautious.

Faith, the faith of a child, knows God will do what He says He will do. Such faith is what moves mountains. I can only echo the statement of the father of the little boy to Jesus.  When Jesus asked him if he believed, Mark 9:24 recounts the father’s desperate cry: “Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!’”

Man praying
Photo courtesy of How Crying Saved My Life by Marliza Gunter, HubPages

A Road in the Desert

By Dr. Ross L. Riggs

Behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in the dream saying, “Arise and take the Child and His mother, and flee to Egypt and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him. (Matthew 2:13 NASB)

“Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt… and the Lord was with Joseph… But Joseph said to them, do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” (Genesis 39:1, 50:19-20
NASB)
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The route of Abraham’s travels in ancient times would have been nearly identical to the traders’ route that those who purchased Joseph would take to Egypt and later Joseph’s brothers and family would eventually take to Cairo. Centuries later, Joseph, step-father of Jesus, would take the same route when fleeing Herod in Jerusalem.
The point marked on this map with a is the location of current day Bir al-Abed. (See map later in this monograph).

Joseph, the great-grandson of Abraham was taken to Egypt and lived there around 2900 BC. (The Exodus under Moses took place about 2450 BC and King David ruled in Jerusalem 1003 to 970 BC)

Archaeologists believe that a massive volcanic eruption followed by a tsunami of epic proportions wiped out the coastal cities of Sinai in 1500 BC. This would have been during the years of the Judges before the reign of King David. A city in the location of Bir al-Abed during the travels of Joseph and his family would have been destroyed and then, perhaps, rebuilt by the time that Joseph, Mary’s husband would have brought the Messiah to Egypt in the 1st Century AD.

In the 7th Century A.D., Islam began to grow in the areas of Mecca and Medina in the area today known as Saudi Arabia. In the years following Mohammad, Islam spread west along the northern shores of Africa in a bloody campaign by those loyal to Mohammad.

On Friday November 24, 2017 Terrorists attacked the Al Rawda Mosque in Bir al-Abed in northern Sinai. Though not yet claimed, as of this writing, likely the local Islamic State of ISIS is responsible for the attack that killed 235 with more than 100 wounded. Sources claim “it was the worst terrorist attack on civilians in modern Egyptian history. It was well-planned, highly coordinated and aimed at slaughtering as many people as possible.”
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Al Rawda (also spelled in some sources, Al Rouda) is a Sufi mosque, a branch of Islam known for its mystic ways that involve chanting and enchantments meant to draw worshippers closer to a spiritual awareness. Many of the worshippers in Bir al-Abed are workers in a local salt mine.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi vowed that the attack “will not go unpunished” and that Egypt would persevere with its war on terrorism. But he did not specify what new steps might be taken. U.S. President Trump took to his Twitter account and called the crisis a horrible and cowardly terrorist attack on innocent and defenseless worshippers. The world cannot tolerate terrorism” he said on Twitter, “we must defeat them militarily and discredit the extremist ideology that forms the basis of their existence!”

According to sources, the terrorists approached the mosque in four off-road vehicles with at least a dozen terrorists entering the mosque where hundreds were gathered. Very likely they approached the city along highway 40, the same road that had carried travelers and tradesmen and in the centuries before the destruction by a massive volcano and tsunami may have carried the 17-year-old prisoner Joseph who would one-day rule Egypt and generations before that the caravan of his great-grandfather Abraham. That same road carried the body of Joseph’s father, Jacob, back to the Promised Land in a great procession, where he would be buried. Jacob’s directions for his burial are recorded in Genesis 49:30-32.

“…in the cave that is in the field of Machpelah, which is before Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought along with the field from Ephron the Hittite for a burial site. “There they buried Abraham and his wife Sarah, there they buried Isaac and his wife Rebekah, and there I buried Leah – the field and the cave that is in it, purchased from the sons of Heth.”

Over four-hundred years later, when Moses was bringing the nation of Israel, now millions strong back to the Promised Land they would be carrying the bones of Joseph only for another Joseph to travel that way again to bring his wife and toddler step-son, baby Jesus, the Messiah to Egypt for safety.
Jesus Christ, by this time a young boy, after the death of Herod, would have passed along this same area again, returning to Israel perhaps even staying the night in a town on or near the site of Bir al-Abed.

On this Friday in November, just a few weeks before the Christian world celebrates the nativity of our Savior Jesus Christ, terrorists used the this non-descript road in the desert to bring about carnage, bloodshed, tears, pain and death.

They were firing rocket propelled grenades and firing indiscriminately into the crowd. One boy of 14 who had shrapnel and a bullet wound described the carnage. He said “I saw many people on the floor, many dead. I don’t think anyone survived,” he said at a hospital in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia, where around 40 of the wounded were taken, including many children.

The Egyptian army has been battling ISIS-linked militant Islamists in the Sinai four years with limited success. But if the world knows little about this fierce ongoing struggle, that is no accident. The Egyptian government has imposed an almost total media blackout on its efforts to repress what is becoming a deeply embedded insurgency

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Egyptian president al-Sisi claimed that “the attack would only “add to our insistence” on combatting extremists. Addressing the nation later on television, he said Egypt is waging a battle against militancy on behalf of the rest of the world, a declaration he has often made in seeking international support for the fight.”

Egyptian president Abdul Fattah al-Sisi went on Egyptian television Friday evening to declare three days of mourning and denounce the attack, which he called the work of cowards. He vowed to respond with air strikes and “brutal force.”
desert

But the use of such brutal force, which critics say is also indiscriminate, has created greater resentment among Sinai residents. It has also radicalized the local population and generated new recruits for the terrorists – even as most Egyptians reacted with shock and outrage to the assault on a holy mosque during the Muslim day of prayer, a rarity in the deeply religious country.

While no group immediately claimed credit for the attack on the Al Rawda mosque in the town of Bir al-Abed in northern Sinai, the culprits were almost surely the local branch of ISIS, also known as the Islamic State.

It is just a road in the desert, probably the current-day road is one with a heritage that is as old as civilization itself. It has witnessed the dawn of mankind’s growth as a people of the One Creator God, the historic events that took place across it and it witnessed the sons of Abraham trying to survive horrific draught and famine. It witnessed the funeral processions of patriarchs of the Christian faith and the escape and return of the Messiah from Israel to Egypt and the fulfillment of prophecy, “Out of Egypt I have called my Son.”

This map shows that simple road. Notice the red color, the subscript of the source just says, “Travel Not Recommended.” So, when one wants to plot their travel from Cairo to Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, there is a bit of a side-trip. That side trip is shown in the next map.5

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You will notice a red line and a blue one. One is the distance to go directly from Cairo to Tel Aviv. The direct route is 395 km and if you travel at 85 km/h it will take you just under 5 hours, depending, of course on how well you swim; so you may want to add some time if you choose to stay on dry land. Because of the violence, however, you will likely have to take the more circuitous route which will take you 9 hours to travel the 756 km. Sounds like the same kind of problem Moses had getting to Israel from Egypt!
There could be close to 300 people dead, men, mostly salt mine workers, women and children all who practice a strange cult version of Islam dead for no other reason than a group of another cult find their worship untenable.

The terrorist lives to strike fear into the hearts of those who just want to live out their lives in relative peace. When Christ returns there will be a time of tribulation on the earth with its purpose to bring back to the faith those who have run away from God, chasing false teachings and empty promises of peace. The violence earlier today was there just for the sake of indulging in terror.

God save us from ourselves and walk beside us along a little-known road in the desert.

 

It Ain’t Easy Bein’ Green

The initial video training is just enough information to be dangerous, at least in this author’s opinion.

kermit-3 In about 1972, Jim Raposo wrote a song made popular by Jim Henson singing as Kermit the Frog, ‘It Ain’t Easy Bein’ Green’ and such words were never more true than in the world today for some who consult with international organizations and are painting whole countries green! Kermit, apparently has begun to understand the dangerous times in which we live. It is a shame that some of these consultants are not as kermit-2well aware. When I say it’s a shame, I mean shame in the most Asian culture seriousness of the word. Perhaps an allusion to another time in our country when being green was a euphemism for being a novice, inexperienced and in capable of functioning on their own, particularly in dangerous situations, is the best way to understand the color.  

I enjoy allusions to cinema and when those illustrations also include John Wayne, so much the better! In El Dorado, John Wayne plays Cole Thornton, a gun hand who refuses to go against his old friend who is the sheriff in the middle of a range war. Instead, he comes to his aid. The sheriff, J.P. Harrah, gets very irritated at a new friend of Wayne’s character, named Mississippi (James Caan) and turns toward him, gun drawn. Thornton (Wayne) says, “Now wait a minute J.P., he’s a little green…” el-dorado-1

Like an unripe fruit, he was not ready. In this case, he was not ready to be on his own in a dangerous situation.    

What does this have to do with this consultant advising this international agency on security and using the color green? The plan, apparently, was to review the security needs of every country in the international organization’s wheel house. They would then color code them as to the level of security training necessary. There were four categories, red being the highest risk and requiring the most training, orange, yellow and then green. Thirty-four out of sixty-five areas of responsibility worldwide, 52.3% were rated as GREEN and were considered LOW RISK. The most heinous part is that the LOW RISK countries required NO TRAINING. Some extremely basic 3 hour introductory videos are shown to everyone but beyond that – No Training!

Low risk countries included all of Europe; including Germany, France, and Spain and we all know how safe those places are today. Ukraine, recently invaded by Russia with war still prevalent in the eastern cities only rates a YELLOW – two days of training!

Although Eastern and Western Mindanao were considered separately, the Philippines was listed as GREEN, no training needed. Western Mindanao is RED and Eastern Mindanao is only YELLOW – requiring just 2 days of training! I could continue; but, you can imagine that if over 50 percent of an organization’s countries, or areas of responsibility, require no supplemental training at all, what is the level of situational awareness of the people working in those countries?

Let’s take a further look at Mindanao. The company divides it into Western and Eastern as we described earlier. Those were the names used before the emancipation. The correct name for Western Mindanao is the Zamboanga Peninsula. Remember, it is shown as RED and the remainder of Mindanao or what was labeled as Eastern is YELLOW – requiring only two  days of training so near to one of the most hateful bunch of Al Qaeda factions out there. Now, realize that all of Mindanao is only 37, 654 square miles. That is less than the State of Ohio which is 44, 825 and can be traversed easily in a few hours. The Zamboanga Peninsula is only 572.74 square miles, which is comparable in size to New York CITY which is 468.90 without its suburbs! So, here I am in Ohio saying that in NE Ohio I’m okay, only a yellow; but, if I travel a few hours to near Cincinnati, bang- I’m in red territory.

Let’s jump off the island of Mindanao and consider the rest of the Philippines which is GREEN – no additional training needed. Manila, the capital city is about as far away from Mindanao as you can get and still be on the archipelago.  By air it is only 561 miles to Manila from Mindanao and 1040 miles by land and boat. Forty two hours travel in the latter and only 59 minutes in the former. Plus, the airfare currently is only $91 one way. Employees of this company living in Manila are GREEN and require no additional training while they are only $91 and 59 minutes from some of the worst Al Qaeda terrorists in the world.

The United States is listed as GREEN yet shootings, stabbings, kidnappings are on the news almost every night. Should not every American have some understanding of how to be situationally aware enough to protect themselves? Apparently the employees of this organization do not require it. The initial video training is just enough information to be dangerous, at least in this author’s opinion.

No doubt, those involved in this organization went about their task in good faith and put a great deal of stock into what they were being told. I would really like to know what kind of a grid was used to determine the levels of risk.  I would also like to know how, any group responsible for the lives of their employees, and, due to their diverse spread across the world, their employees’ spouses and their children, can consider any of them to not require any real training.

Sadly, if I were to hazard a guess… a deciding factor was cost. To the organization’s credit, they weren’t specifically trying to save themselves money because the brunt of the cost of the training would be born by the employees themselves. That is the way this company is structured. You could say, that a company that was bearing its responsibility correctly, (or  I believe the argument could be made to carry their responsibility morally), should be providing the training at no cost to the employee; but that is not the way it is currently for most of these contract-type employees. 

Over fifty percent of this organization’s area (and probably an even much higher percentage of their actual employees and families) are living in GREEN areas. Very seldom in writing is there an opportunity to use this word, so here goes, I am flabbergasted!

If you could see me right now you might think you were intoxicated or had a head injury because you might just see two of me… because I am simply beside myself on this one!

I truly believe that the organization involved here is attempting to do their very best; but, internally they have almost no expertise by which to filter what they are being told by outside consultants. I have no idea the credentialing of these consultants. Maybe, in many areas they are considered experts. However, it is this one person’s seasoned opinion that they are very wrong in the way they are directing this organization.  I urge any group that decides to depend solely on the opinions of someone or some group from outside their own agency on how best to protect their own people to use the very utmost of caution.

One last movie analogy, in the Indiana Jones movie, The Last Crusade, the malefactor must decide which chalice he believes to be the cup of Christ. If he picks the right one, he receives immortality, the wrong one brings death. As the Nazis villain decays into a pile of dust, the ancient crusader left to guard the cup says very simply, “He chose poorly.”crusader

 

 

Out of the Darkness

In the classic story by Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the book; not the made for TV movie, there is a moment high atop Mt. Crumpet where the Grinch had taken all of the Who’s Christmas… to dump it! In that moment, according to the good doctor, there is a sound wafting over the snow. What he writes next is so critical to our understanding of how, at times, God speaks into our lives. “It started in low. Then it began to grow…”[i] What is important to note here is that, for the Grinch to hear it, he had to stop what he was doing even though he was teetering on the precipice of a bodacious cliff and was so close to completing a task that he had set out to do. He had to STOP right then and LISTEN or he might have missed it completely!

How often have we missed hearing what God has for us because we just had to finish this one thing or I have such an urgent issue right now that I better take care of it first? Being on a precipice of a cliff can meet that standard! Elijah had to wait for the whirlwind to pass before he eventually heard God’s still, small voice. (1 Kings 19) We can receive an incredible blessing if we just listen. Sometimes, it comes in the sweet soft melodies of a beautifully played flute and at other times it can ring out of the darkness in a crescendo of sound that says to us in no uncertain terms, Christ is King eternal, righteous, and holy forevermore!

Across the platform in the building, where our part of the church meets for worship, is our wonderful worship team. From singers and soloists to musicians, we are truly blessed to have such a dedicated team. The platform is mostly showered in light with more to the front and fading toward the back. Along one side it is noticeably darker. In the recesses of those shadows is one musician. I wonder often how she can see her music score in such darkness; but, she obviously does and does so very well. At times, one has to be really listening to the music to hear a sweet counter-melody of a flute whispering so gently out of that darkness. At other times, in the height of a crescendo of praise rings out the punctuation of the chimes that brings chills to the neck and thrills the soul. As quickly as either began, they end. The darkness again envelopes the sound and the musician. Very nearly invisible; yet so incredibly powerful.

Have you experienced hearing God’s voice to you, out of the darkness? At times when we are so incredibly busy or teetering on the precipice of an emotional cliff, comes the sweet soft melody of a flute, the sound of voices singing in the distance, the voice of a friend, or a sense of awe from reading God’s Word; the right passage at just the right time. At other times, when the darkness threatens to overcome us and swallow us up into a place of non-existence, God also speaks. His voice resounds through the darkness as sharply as the mallet upon the chime declaring to us His nearness which beckons us to come back to the safety of His arms.

In whatever way that God is speaking to you; STOP and LISTEN; for the blessing you are about to receive is wondrous indeed. Dr. Seuss wrote that the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes that day. I don’t know about that, particularly; but I do know, your heart will never be the same.

[i] Seuss, Dr., How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Random House: NY 1957

HH

ASL hard of hearing

         My deaf and hard of hearing friends and those who know American Sign Language (ASL) will recognize the sign above for the double H which means ‘Hard of Hearing’.  That sign is the one I use when communicating with the deaf to explain that I am hard of hearing though not completely deaf and it is one of the reasons I continue to try to learn ASL.

This morning was a bright and beautiful morning and I found myself at the pond at the back of our small farm, fishing. I was fishing and the fish were cooperating. Bass after bass seemed eager to take my hook. I catch and release because mostly, for me, fishing is a chance to talk to God.

From our house, the pond and the woods beyond offer a symphony of sound. On hot days or cool nights, you can, if you are not hard of hearing, listen to a complete symphony of nature in sonata form, the first movement being the stately croak of the frogs their allegro flow introducing the night song. Then comes the minuet – the nighttime dance of sounds. Being a distance away and hard of hearing makes me miss much of the minuet, particularly the alto and soprano sounds of nature. This morning, though, I was thinking about (and talking with God about) the fact that when I am at the pond, closer to the orchestra; I am able to hear more than when distance blurs the music. God showed me that the same is true when I long to hear from Him what it is that He is expecting of me. When I cannot hear His still small voice of encouragement or direction, often, I am too far away. When I find myself far from God, I always notice that it was me who moved, not Him.

I have had the joy, in the past, of owning hearing aids that open up so much more of the world than what I hear on a daily basis. Sadly, the cost of such devices precludes having them at times and it is then I wonder how much I am missing. Newer devices have the ability to open up in a kind of stereo when out in nature to pick up all the sounds. This morning, I wondered what kind of device do I need to hear God speak to me? Then I realized that it is His Word. By staying in it, studying and enjoying it, I hear better and I find myself closer.

What keeps me from hearing when distance is not the issue? Sometimes I can be right next to my wife and not be able to understand what she has said. If I cannot see her face and watch her lips move, I miss much of what she says. When there is a crowd and other background noises, I cannot hear what someone says to me. Sometimes I hear a sound but I cannot distinguish the words because there is too much busyness going on about me.

One of my physical issues that inhibits my hearing is damage to the small hairs of the ear canal. These small hairs are the sensory receptors. The doc tells me that it is through mechanotransduction that these hair cells detect movement. When that happens, the brain hears sound. The damage to my cells causes them to send a constant signal to my brain which is translated as a high pitched non-ending hum. I have two different pitches, one for each ear. Damage to these hair cells results in decreased hearing sensitivity and because they cannot regenerate, this damage is permanent. What is interesting is that, because they are damaged, they move continually. This continual movement generates the tinnitus and decreases my ability to hear.

How often, I wonder, is my inability to hear what God is trying to say to me caused by me being too busy doing whatever that may be good works? My busyness may be blocking my ability to hear what God is trying to say to me. Even when I am by the pond, if I am completely wrapped up in working with the horses or some other chore, I often do not hear any of the symphony going on all around me. I can be close enough. I can even have been spending time in God’s Word so I have my hearing aid; but, if I’m too busy, I’ll miss what He has to say to me.

So, there is my prescription for better hearing of what God wants to say to me. I need to get closer to Him. I need to be in His Word so that my hearing His voice is aided by the scripture and I need to stop the busyness of a Christian life and just listen.

How is your hearing?